There was a stretch of time between 2012 and 2015 where we traveled A LOT for work. On average, we were on the road approx. 50% of the year and collected a crap ton of miles and points along the way. Since we believe in spending miles and points as soon as you’ve earned something valuable, in 2015, we booked a trip to Italy on a whim.
Looking back, it was one of the most spontaneous things we’d ever done. Let’s see? We were on vacation [Aruba] when we booked it, we were slated to get married in New Orleans that September but squeezed Italy in that summer because…why not!
We were also deeply inspired by a recent episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown and so the thought of endless Negronis, pizza and Cacio e pepe seemed heavenly. Mr. r&R’s childhood friend was stationed in Sicily at the time so we figured we might even be able to see him while we were there.
All in, we each used about 45,000 Delta Skymiles and dumped a gang of IHG Rewards Club Points to pay for some of our rooms while we were there. Here are a few highlights and travel tips from our time in Italy.
They say you can’t see all of Rome in a day…and they’re absolutely correct. Hell, its fair to say you can’t see all of Rome in a week. Between the crowds, the heat and the history, to truly enjoy all it has to offer, you’d need a solid 6 months…and that’s just Rome!
Since we were using IHG Rewards Club points, our goal was to set up shop in a central location to the sights, so we opted to stay at the Hotel Indigo St. George. The neighborhood itself is one of the most beautiful places we’d ever seen and like most places in Rome, it’s best taking it all in on foot.
Walking around St. George is like roaming around a living, breathing outdoor art museum. We’re not photographers by any stretch of the imagination, but the city will make you feel like you’re a professional.
Of course, we had a long list of must-see sites to make our trip worthwhile and we easily walked to most of them from our hotel. There are easier ways to get around like taxis and public transportation, but we were willing to rough it out because the city itself was so inspiring. Also, when you’re devouring as many carbs as we did, it’s best to find a little bit of balance.
We’re not even gonna lie ya’ll. There was so much to see, we lost track and we’re not even sure we’ve properly captioned some of the sites! It was so much, while we were there, we just decided to see as much as we could without burning ourselves out and commit to going back for a Round II. But hands down, our absolute favorite memory while there was booking a meal through eatwith.com.
Eatwith.com is a website that allows people to book authentic dining experiences in someone’s home. It’s like Airbnb for foodies! The dinner was about a fifteen minute walk from our hotel [in Trastevere] and was absolutely amazing. We had multiple courses, wine, dessert and great conversations with people from all over the world who were looking for a truly authentic Roman experience, just like us.
So after a few days of walking and stuffing our faces, we hopped a flight/shuttle to Sicily to see the quieter side of Italy and to visit Mr. r&Rs friend who was stationed there at the time. They recently had a baby so this was a great opportunity to see them all while we were in their corner of the world.
There are regular flights from Rome to Sicily and back (approx. 1 1/2 hours) so we booked one on Expedia and found an Airbnb overlooking the coastline. The apartment was amazing with 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and a huge balcony where we would spend most of our time just hanging out and taking in views of sea.
We didn’t spend much time outside of our room in Palermo because honestly, the neighborhood was giving us some ‘shady’ vibes. Not like, we might be robbed or anything but it was eerily quiet at times and our spidey senses were going haywire. Besides, once we secured all the food and wine we needed from the local grocery store, we were all set to just hang out on our balcony.
We actually had a few hiccups trying to figure out the air conditioning while we were there but our Airbnb host was great and responded very quickly to get it taken care of. Like Rome, we were pleasantly surprised at the art and murals that were everywhere in the city.
When we did venture out by ourselves, we saw the sites and visited some neighboring islands off the coast of Sicily. We organized a tour that took us from our doorsteps to a boat and off to some tiny islands just off the coast. It wasn’t quite Santorini, but you can see the resemblance.
Visiting friends outside of the US is always special. Its just dope when you get to connect with someone you’ve known your entire life in a completely different environment. It’s one of the reasons we will always make room for travel in our budget because we understand how important it is to build memories and to truly support people during important periods in their life.
All in, we were there for ten days and it was miles, points and money well spent. Whenever possible, if traveling to a country outside of the US, we make a point to visit different parts of that destination so we have a more well-rounded experience. Italy was no exception and we were glad we saw as much of it as we did, even if it added a few inches to our waistline.
Here are a few tips to consider when visiting Rome or Palermo, Sicily
Tips for Rome
- Wear comfortable clothing, especially in the summer
- Prepare for crowds. Arrive early to everything and prepare for long lines
- Hotels are expensive. Unless you have a boatload of points, you’re likely only going to be able to secure a few nights
- Book well in advance and consider creating multiple reservations to maximize your use of hotel points. For example, they may not be able to secure a hotel stay for Mon. – Wed. but you may be able to use points for one day under one reservation and another day under a separate reservation
- Rome’s main airport is old. Use the taxi stand to get to the city center. Rates going into the city are set in advance and based on the neighborhood.
Tips for Sicily (Palermo)
- Book a late morning or early afternoon flight departing Rome. That will give you wiggle room
- If you can, avoid using 3rd party websites. When there are delays in your flight schedule, you will likely be the last to know
- The Palermo airport doesn’t have many food options. Prepare accordingly.
Tips for staying in Airbnb’s outside of the US
- If possible, book with a superhost. They are more experienced and take their responsibilities seriously
- Don’t assume that “air conditioning” means heat or that any one icon for temperature control included all temperature options. If you need it, look for heat and cool separately
- Like hotels, read the reviews for consistent feedback
Interested in an eatwith experience?
Here’s a coupon for $12 off if you use the promo code BE12D332 , courtesy of r&R. Maybe you’ll even see us hosting a dinner-party someday.